Should you register your copyright?
As the author of a dissertation, you own the copyright to your work just by virtue of being its author. Most dissertation authors will not find themselves in a situation in which someone infringes on or violates the copyright by using it without proper crediting or producing it as if it were someone else’s work. If you are concerned that this might happen, however, it might be worthwhile to pay the extra fee required in order to register your copyright. Here is what registering the copyright accomplishes:
1. It is a prerequisite for filing an infringement action against someone in court and serves as prima facie evidence of copyright validity.
2. A copyright owner can recover statutory damages and attorneys’ fees only if the work is registered prior to infringement or within three months of publication.
3. If the infringement occurred prior to registration, the copyright owner can still file an action but is limited to actual damages and injunctive relief (the ability to stop the infringement). You could register the copyright after you find out about an infringement, in other words, and still take some action against the violator.
4. By paying the copyright registration fee to ProQuest Information and Learning - UMI, you are paying them to register the copyright on your behalf. Alternatively, you can do it on your own now or later. All you have to do is fill out a short form, and mail it, along with two copies of the work and the fee, to the U.S. copyright office. Under some circumstances you may file for copyright electronically. Please visit their website for more information about electronic filing.
As this suggests, registering the copyright might not be necessary in many cases. However, if your work is something that has the potential to make money (e.g., book royalties), it is probably wise to register the copyright.